Last Monday, we were all at home as it was a bank holiday. This meant that we had a long weekend. The first two and a half days went by in a breeze. The kids had a great time, though not too much outdoors , what with the bleak weather. I made little treats and played with them and we had a nice time. Towards the second half of the day, all my energy seemed to have been drained…I postponed making anything for dinner till the nth hour. But, then, with three hungry faces staring back at me, I dragged myself towards the kitchen, promising myself to somehow rustle up something, so that the brood can be fed.
Now,don’t get it wrong…some might think that my better half could have lent a hand…well, that is where the problem lies… Dinesh is a foodie at heart and a fairly decent cook and does not mind at all as far as helping in the kitchen goes. But it is your’s truthfully who is to be blamed as I consider the kitchen to be my domain and somehow can’t tolerate any interference. In fact sometimes he thinks I’m mad and a bit silly to refuse his helping hand when others in my place would have jumped at the offer. Well, silly or not, I like doing things in the kitchen my way, and practically speaking, I have a lot less cleaning up to do…less chance of things being misplaced in the racks. Needless to say, I do overwork myself at times while trying to feed my ego. I allow him to help in laying the table, but that’s as far as I would let him. In fact, things have gone to such a stage that last year, when I was down with very high fever, and when boosting my ego was the last thing on my mind, the kids were really surprised and wondered as to what was ‘daddy doing in mummy’s kitchen’. I don’t think I’m sending out very great signals at that…
Never mind, as I was saying, I wanted to make something quick and a one dish meal. Rummaging through the pantry, I dragged out the last remnants of the paella rice that have been sitting for some time now…if somebody raids my kitchen, they are bound to find quite a lot of things like that. Paella is a medium grain rice and is a bit sticky when cooked. Prepared with an assortment of vegetables, chicken and spices, the dish turned into an aromatic and hearty meal…a nice end to a shaky start…
I always try to make dishes which would suit our palates and also according to the availability of the ingredients in my pantry. Authentic Spanish paella even calls for a special pan to cook it. I’ve read quite a lot of paella recipes, but this one is my version with a bit of inspiration from here and there…I hope the Spaniards will excuse me for tweaking their famous dish just a wee bit…
Although, I’ve made it non-vegetarian, it can easily be turned into a vegetarian one as well. Just use vegetable stock instead of the chicken. Again, those who prefer can add sea- food as well.
Without more ado, here’s what’s needed-
1 and 1/2 C of paella rice
1 onion, chopped
1/2 red and 1/2 green peppers, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
2-3 pieces of chicken breasts, cut into strips or small pieces
1 carrot, chopped
2 handfuls of sweetcorn
4 C of chicken stock( keep handy a couple of cups more)
3-4 tblsp olive oil
salt to taste
Herbs and spices-
1/4 tsp saffron strands
3 pods of garlic
1/2 tsp peppercorns
1 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp thyme( I used the dried ones)
1/2 tsp paprika
Mix all the herbs and spices with a tblsp of the stock, crush in a mortar and keep aside.
Heat the oil in a pan and fry the chicken for 2-3 minutes. Add all the vegetables and stir fry for a couple of minutes. Add the tomatoes and stir for another five minutes.
Add the rice(unwashed) into the pan along with the 4 cups of chicken stock, the herb and spice mixture and season with salt. Cover and cook over low heat till done. Check to see that the rice does not burn at the bottom(although the Spaniards consider the burnt bits to be equally delicious, I have an aversion to burnt food). If it gets too dry, add some more stock. Actually, it depends upon the consistency desired. If a dry dish is wanted , then there is no need to be too generous with the stock. Again, although a typical paella is usually not stirred once the rice and stock has been added, I did uncover the pan a few times to check.
Once the rice is cooked, keep the pan covered for a couple of minutes so that all the flavours can be further absorbed by the rice.
Once uncovered, I ladled it into serving bowls, and there was a burst of flavours in our mouths..not too overpowering, but a nice feel… Agastya could’nt help asking for more…was, in fact, a very gratifying dish…and very filling to boot!!!